Author Interview – Carolyn Weber

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Carolyn Weber. I discovered her after reading her first book, a memoir, Surprised by Oxford.

I have a penchant for memoirs, and this one was by far, my favorite.

Carolyn Weber came out with another fabulous book, Holy Is The Day which I reviewed recently.

I’m excited to share my first author interview with you.

When did you know you were a writer?

I don’t think there was a “moment” – although I do remember writing as a child but hiding my work because the teacher didn’t believe me when I tried to write a novel in grade 1. I’ve been an academic writer for some time because of my professorial career, but when I finally wrote my conversion memoir a few years ago (“Surprised by Oxford”), well, that was a turning point, and I’ve enjoyed writing more specifically as a faith walk, and hopefully as a praise since then.

What are your favorite books and why?

All types of books qualify as favorites for me – I don’t have one particular type. Though I do love many of the classics, and not just because I should. I honestly do find something enduring about them, and an appeal to aspects of our deepest humanity. Jane Eyre, The Brothers Karamazov, The Odyssey, Paradise Lost … they are all electric.

When did you decide to write your memoir, Surprised by Oxford?

Once I was tenured, and it was relatively “safer” to write a spiritual memoir in an academic environment. But by then, the story had percolated long enough too – I had promptings for ages from students and friends. So I finally sat down on my sabbatical and wrote it.

Was it your dream to become a professor or become a writer?

It was always my dream to teach, from as far back as I can remember. And I love to study writers, I love to read. Writing now across many genres, and pushing myself as a writer, has felt like “walking through the looking glass,” so to speak. I now know more intimately what the writers I had studied for so long had to actually go through – from the thrill of inspiration to the icy exposure of criticism. 

I enjoyed reading your new book, Holy is the Day? Can you tell us a little bit about how this book came about?

For some time, I had been sitting with the notion of what does it truly mean to be in God’s presence? When I discovered I was pregnant with a surprise baby, and one who potentially faced health problems, the writing process became a sort of prayer process in itself of trusting our God.

You touched a little bit about your leaving teaching? Do you think you will return to teaching English one day? Or do you want to just focus on writing?

I will always be a teacher. I can’t root it out, in spite of me. But for this life season, the writing and the parenting keep me busy enough.

In Surprised by Oxford, it chronicles your life and how you came to know the Lord. Do you find there is a conflict between being a Christian and being a professor?

No conflict exists in the actual teaching itself, or in the reading of books. Those things only facilitate my inner conversation with God, and my outer living of faith. Any serious conflicts, I have found, arise from bureaucracy and the fearful, but that is nothing new.

Do you find Christian writers to be mediocre? If so, why do you think this is the case and how do you think this can be corrected?

I think mediocre writers, like any other profession, exist everywhere. Christian writing can seem particularly beleaguered because there are strains and judgments placed upon it from within the church as well as from without. I know, for instance, that when I went to publish my memoir, some Christian publishers won’t publish profanity, point blank (even if it’s used carefully, not gratuitously). Or they want you to edit out gay people, or drinking. I can understand some concerns but overall this seems ridiculous. Life is where it is lived; Jesus showed us that by his very example among us. But then on the other hand, many secular publishers won’t touch a manuscript which takes Jesus seriously with a ten foot pole. So what is the Christian writer to do? Which God to serve, so to speak? I think this can often stilt or deform even the most well-intentioned writing. If we are each honest and forthright about our own stories before God, then I do believe He will use them where they are most needed.

What are your goals and aspirations as a writer?

I hope to encourage readers in their relationship with God but also let them know it’s okay to ask the big (or little) questions. Our God is not a fragile God. I would like to explore this strength and nuance and presence through many types of genres. The well is bottomless!

Lastly, what advice would you give a novice writer?

Pray. Pray when you pick up the pen, or strike the keyboard. Pray when you write, and edit and slash and cut. Pray when you have gushed out all you have for that day. And pray over the final piece. That what was in you seeking God would find its home in another who also needed it. That your writing would bring peace and praise. And that no other worldly static would interfere with your joy in the word.

Thank you, Carolyn Weber for this wonderful interview. I look forward to reading your next book.

Carolyn Weber is an author, speaker and professor. She has taught literature to undergraduates for 15 years, most recently as associate professor of Romantic Literature at Seattle University. As the Canadian Commonwealth scholar for literature, she completed her M.Phil and Doctoral degrees at Oxford University, and later served as the first female Dean of St. Peter’s College, Oxford.Carolyn lives in London, Ontario Canada with her husband and their 4 children.